Recalls cost hospitals time and money. Shouldn’t we be compensated?

Jack Anderson, president of Material Resources Inc., a supply chain consulting firm, writes that recalls by manufacturers of medical equipment, supplies and drugs are time-consuming interruptions in a healthcare provider’s routine, may expose patients and staff to undesired dangers, and cost hospitals thousands of dollars each year. The time that hospital staff spends responding to recalls is uncompensated, and I believe that we should be paid for our time.

The number of recalls seems to be increasing each year. The web and 24-hour news channels often report product problems in advance of hospitals being notified of them. Often, these reports are for products that your hospital may not use, but prudent practices require our attention in any case.

Many recalls are avoidable. Product problems, both advisories and recalls, result from poor manufacturing processes, questionable clinical trials by physicians receiving payment from the manufacturer, or a lack of scrutiny over third-party suppliers, concealing a device’s known adverse effects and more.

Why should our hospitals respond to these errors with labor and, very often, additional costs, without being compensated for our efforts? Processing recalled products is time-consuming and needs to be accomplished immediately; the recall warning can’t wait until we have time. Multiple levels of staff are often involved, from supply and biomedical technicians to managers, directors, administrators and physicians. I maintain that we should be paid for this time. If some of you are doing this, I would like to learn of your experiences.

Processing recalls includes:

  1. Logging the recall notice.
  2. Determining whether the product is used by your hospital, either currently, or in the case of implanted products, in the past. This might be accomplished by researching your information system’s database, but would be a much longer process if manual means were necessary.
  3. Documenting whether your hospital uses the product and where.
  4. Determining where the recalled product is in your hospital, gathering the suspect goods and quarantining them in a secure location so they can’t be used. The storeroom location is easiest, but then each department that uses the item needs to be inspected. In some cases, products are stored in unofficial storage areas, such as surgical rooms, procedure carts and other convenience locations, making this job more difficult and time consuming. In cases where portable equipment is recalled, finding all of the targeted items is challenging and time-consuming.
  5. Documenting the actions in step 4.
  6. When an implant is involved, physicians are primarily responsible for contacting their patients and deciding on the course of action.  However, in our hospital, we search our implant database and notify the physician, in writing, of our findings.
  7. Disposal or return of the recalled product(s).
  8. Document all and report our actions to our Recall Committee. Often, this committee will identify further complications or suggest other places where these products might be.


At this point, we may not have a product to take the place of the recalled item, so buyers and other staff must research possible alternatives. The replacement product could cost more, could result in priority shipping charges and may require your staff to be trained on the use of the replacement product. More time, more money.

To read his entire column, click here

1 Comment on "Recalls cost hospitals time and money. Shouldn’t we be compensated?"

  1. I could not agree more that recalls and alerts cost healthcare facilities a great deal of money. Not only from the bullet points described in the article, but also included in that cost maybe the cost of any subscription or service facilities use to manage and document recalls. We regularly get visits from FDA personnel to confirm how the recall was managed. Also, on many of the largest most time consuming and expensive recall, like the Triad swab recall, you have the cost of the product you must return or dispose of and do NOT get replacement product. When you factor in all the kits those products were in, imagine how much that cost all of us. Plus with recalls such as that, you often need to respond to several sources. With equipment, often we also have our Biomed staff time in upgrading or applying the fix.

    With so many pieces of equipment having “software” components, the number of recalls has increased significantly in recent years. And, often, the “fix” creates a new issue and on goes the recall.

    I would love to see some sort of compensation, but can see where this will require some creativity in situations where the recalls that cost the most are ones where the vendor may not have the financial resources to compensate us. Good article and hope it raises awareness! At the very least, we need to be aware of vendors who more frequently have recalls and start to recognize that as a cost of doing business with them.

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